On Marvel Superhero day at Oriole Park, we got superhero tie-ins—Adley Rutschman “Captain America” Bobblehead Day, the Oriole Bird decked out as Thor, the Black Panther taking photos at the front gates, and MASN’s Robb Long confusing “The Hulk” with Hulk Hogan—and several nice real-life reunions. Old Orioles friend Brian Roberts joined Kevin Brown in the booth to offer up fielding insights and plenty of snarky commentary (Jorge Mateo, lay out for those balls up the middle! Roberts’ superhero avatar, according to Roberts himself: Ant Man). In the stands, Maryland Governor Wes Moore could be seen, and taking in the game from behind the dugout, the real Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr. Wow!
On the mound, today brought a reunion with left-hander Cole Irvin, freshly called up from Triple-A. Signed this offseason to provide leadership in the rotation and throw strikes, over three starts in April, the fifth-year veteran pitcher did one, but not the other. At the time he was sent down to Norfolk to work on his control, he was walking over 12 batters a game. Over seven Triple-A starts, he’d brought that rate down to just over two, so the Orioles called him up to help out this weekend.
Welcome back, Cole! Irvin had one major assignment today—throw strikes—and he more than complied: over 5 1/3 innings, he threw 55 strikes and 17 balls, allowing just one run. His fastball touched 95 and he pounded the corners effectively.
He allowed some scary hard contact, especially early. He froze the first Royal of the game, but the next four got barrel to ball: back-to-back singles preceding a 98-mph grounder off the bat of Bobby Witt Jr. Luckily, Jorge Mateo was there to snag it and retire the slow-footed lead runner, Salvador Perez. The next contact Irvin allowed was even scarier: a deep drive just short of the right-field bleachers, reeled in by a leaping Anthony Santander. It’s a bird, it’s a plane. . . it’s Tony, getting some air and Irvin out of the first inning:
Great defense is a pitcher’s best friend. So is run support! An Orioles offense that’s been so herky-jerky of late showed up ready to play today.
It went like this: against the Royals’ Brady Singer, leadoff man Gunnar Henderson (it’s new, let’s see how it works out) struck out swinging, but Adley Rutschman and Santander showed great patience, and they were rewarded with a walk and a run-scoring double, respectively. Bring on the sprinklers! Two newer Orioles, Aaron Hicks and Ryan O’Hearn, repeated the playbook: Hicks walked, then O’Hearn drove in a run, sending Santander trotting home with a single up the middle. The two are hitting .320 and .295, respectively, since joining Baltimore.
Looking stronger in the second, Irvin was lifted up by more great outfield defense: Aaron Hicks erased a single to center with a tumbling grab [insert more references to superheroes, capes, flight here].
Then, more Orioles runs! Brady Singer tried to sneak a changeup by Gunnar Henderson, but the lefty isn’t missing those these days. Bam! 408 feet all the way to deep center, into the home bullpen. Gunnar is hitting .350 over his last week. It was now 3-0 Orioles.
Over the third and fourth innings, the combo of throwing strikes + great defense continued to work for Irvin. Adam Frazier got the first out of the third with one of the slickest plays we’ve seen from an Orioles infielder this season, ranging up the middle and using an off-balance jump throw to nab Nick Pratto. In the fourth, Irvin retired the side with ease on two groundouts and one backdoor curveball that Captain America framed with a little razzle-dazzle. Getting by with a little help from his friends—but also good pitches.
The Royals got a run back off Irvin in the fifth, a hot Edward Olivares doubling before catcher Freddy Fermin singled him home. But Irvin kept pounding the outside of the zone with fastballs and curveballs to limit the damage.
KC’s Brady Singer deserves credit for making it to the middle innings after O’s hitters forced him to throw 39 pitches in the first inning alone. But we don’t care about credit for Royals pitchers, give us runs! And so the Orioles did. With one out in the fifth inning, Singer hung a slider to Santander, who absolutely massacred it, 108 mph to center, his second two-bagger of the day. Then Austin Hays sent a ball whistling through the infield. Santander got the send, and, looking pretty speedy, beat the throw with a slide into home. 4-1 good guys!
For several innings, MASN booth had been calling for some Orioles insurance runs, and, just like a shower from Mr. Splash over Section 86, the tap opened up again in the eighth. Ryan McKenna worked a walk against the Royals’ Scott Barlow, and as the booth weighed the option of a steal, Adam Frazier crushed a hanging curveball and quickly made those thoughts unnecessary:
The only way Cole Irvin’s day could have been awesomer was if he’d provided a little more length, but as it was, a Cano- and Bautista-less bullpen still did what it had to. Bryan Baker took over with one out and a man on in the sixth. That man, Bobby Witt Jr., was swiftly erased from the basepaths by Adley Rutschman and Frazier, holding the tag as Witt came off the base.
Austin Voth was far from sharp today, walking two in the seventh and retiring just one, but Brandon Hyde smartly yanked him before things could get worse. Cionel Pérez looked scarily wild, but he found the strike zone just in time to clean up Voth’s mess. Then he came out and pitched a strong eighth, looking like the 2022 Cionel Pérez again. With the score at 4-1, this game was close and those outs felt huge.
Mike Baumann came out to pitch the ninth in a non-save situation, and though Edward Olivares managed to get aboard for a third time, with a five-run lead now, there was never a real threat.
They weren’t wearing capes, and they didn’t look exactly superhuman. But today, the Orioles took this game, and the series, in convincing fashion to go to 40-24. Last year, win No. 40 didn’t come until July 7. Putting a bow on Marvel Superhero day, Kevin Brown summed up, “The Orioles are inevitable.”
Who was the Most Birdland Player on June 10?
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Cole Irvin (5 1/3 innings, 1 R, 5 K, 0 BB, 55/17 strike-to-ball ratio in return start)
Anthony Santander (3-for-4, 2 doubles, RBI, one leaping grab, one headfirst slide home)
Gunnar Henderson (2-for-5, HR, 1B)
Adam Frazier (2-run HR, sick ranging/jump-throw play)
Cionel Pérez (two big outs to save the seventh, three more in a dominant eighth)